Today is the birthday of John Henry “Doc” Holliday, born in Griffin, Georgia (1851). He studied dentistry in Philadelphia, and that’s how he got his nickname, but he was only in private practice for a few months when he contracted tuberculosis. He moved west from Georgia, hoping the desert air would prolong his life, and it was in Dallas, Texas, that he decided gambling was a more lucrative career than dentistry, especially since his chronic tubercular cough drove his patients away. He drifted throughout the West, developing a reputation as a gunfighter and heavy drinker, and wound up in Tombstone, in the Arizona Territory, in 1880. There he took up with his friends Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp, whom he’d met in Dodge City, Kansas. The Earp brothers were involved in a feud with a gang called the Cowboys, made up of the Clantons and the McLaurys. The feud led to one of the most famous shoot-outs in the history of the American West: the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which happened in October 1881. Thirty shots were fired in as many seconds, leaving three dead and many wounded. Holliday survived the shoot-out, but died of tuberculosis six years later, at a sanatorium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
After his death, the Denver Republican wrote: “He represented a class of men who are disappearing in the new West. He had the reputation of being a bunco man, desperado, and bad-man generally, yet he was a very mild-mannered man, was genial and companionable, and had many excellent qualities.”